Tough Bichel joins mates in retirement
Andy Bichel, a bowler with the toughness of a farmer's tractor, has finally given into his 38-year-old body and retired from Queensland 17 seasons after turning up from the country town of Laidley. Bichel had shoulder surgery last summer and had hoped to return, but he was unable to regain fitness and stepped down as the state's second-most prolific Sheffield Shield bowler.
His 430 wickets in 89 games left him 11 behind his great friend Michael Kasprowicz. Despite his consistent excellence at domestic level, Bichel's international opportunities were limited and he earned 58 victims in 19 Tests - his best of 5 for 20 came against West Indies in Melbourne - and 78 in 67 ODIs. The departure continues the changing of the guard in Queensland after Kasprowicz and Jimmy Maher exited last year, and Matthew Hayden retired in Janaury.
"I don't want to let anyone down," he said in front of the Bulls squad at Allan Border Field. "It [the shoulder] is good enough for grade cricket, but I didn't want to get out there [for Queensland] and not do what I used to do."
A great team player, Bichel also spent long stints as 12th man - he carried the drinks a record 19 times - but never let the frustration show. He was cheerful, friendly and strong enough to bowl through the day without dropping his pace. Used mostly as a support act with Australia, he was good enough to dismiss Brian Lara five times in Tests and on three occasions in one-dayers.
Bichel's most amazing day came in a World Cup match against England in 2003, when he took 7 for 20 before scoring 34 not out to seal the victory. He was a crucial part of that trophy-winning success but was soon overlooked by the national selectors.
After being cut in 2004, he followed up by claiming the Pura Cup Player of the Year award in 2005-06, with 452 runs and 50 wickets, and continued to be a huge threat until the shoulder operation. His final game for Queensland came at the Gabba in November 2007 when he could deliver only six overs before succumbing to the injury.
On that ground 12 years earlier he had helped bowl the Bulls to their first Sheffield Shield victory and the boyish smile that he wore for those five days was never far away over the remainder of his career. Batsmen were not that happy when facing his sharp, skidding and swinging deliveries, especially when he was working in tandem with Kasprowicz.
Bichel, who won six Sheffield Shields, scored nine first-class centuries and developed enough to end his career as a genuine allrounder. He was also a committed performer in England, playing for Worcestershire, Hampshire and Essex, and being picked for the 1997 Ashes tour. Bichel will wave goodbye at the Gabba during a lap of honour at the dinner break in Australia's one-day match against New Zealand on Friday.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo